The Religious Wars of Charlemagne - From About 771-814

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Ecclesiastical history, so-called, from the time of Pepin, is so interwoven with the history of the Frankish kings, and the disgraceful intrigues of the popes, that we must further, though briefly, trace the course of events which have an important bearing on the character of popery and the history of the church.
The rising power of Charlemagne, the younger son of Pepin, was watched by the occupants of St. Peter's chair with the greatest possible interest, and skilfully used by them for the accomplishment of their ambitious designs. Pope Hadrian I and Leo III, both able men, filled the papal throne during the long reign of Charles; and succeeded in greatly aggrandizing, through what he called his religious wars, the Roman See.
A quarrel between Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and Pope Hadrian led to a war with France, which ended in the complete overthrow of the Lombard kingdom in Italy. This was the result of the grand scheme of the papacy, and brought about by the unprincipled and treacherous policy of the pontiff. Charles was son-in-law to Desiderius; but after one year's wedlock he divorced Hermingard the Lombard's daughter, and immediately married Hildegard, a lady of a noble Swabian house. The insulted father, on receiving back his repudiated daughter, naturally sought for redress from the pope, the head of the church, of which Charles was so dutiful a son. But although the church, when it suited its own purposes, had asserted in the strongest terms the sanctity of the marriage bond, its open violation in this instance was passed quietly over; the pope refused to interfere.
Rome was reckoning on good service from the great Charles, and could not afford to risk his displeasure. Not a word was said against the conduct of the dissolute monarch. Desiderius at length resented the bitter insult of Charles and the wicked connivance of Hadrian; he appeared at the head of his troops in papal Italy; he besieged, stormed, and spread devastation everywhere, and threatened the pope in his capital.